Is it possible to be on top of the Hollywood A-List and lose it all for what you believe in? The answer is yes. Dalton Trumbo was living proof of that. During the 1940s, Hollywood was painted with movie stars, prominent cinema, and a portrait of the american dream, or so you thought. In a post World War II America, John Wayne movies were the image of what the battlefront looked like and we could grasp these rough times by watching American Cinema. But the real soldiers were the screen writers in Hollywood that lived and breathed World War II and put together the scripts for many popular and famous films of the time. Dalton Trumbo was one of those wizards behind the curtain, that wrote these picturesque stories that captivated audiences around the world.
Dalton Trumbo played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Godzilla) brings an oscar worthy performance in this film from start to finish. With each maneurism, tap on the typewriter, and cigarette smoked. Throughout the 124 minute film, you get you a little closer to the infamous novelist that didn’t give two shits what anyone thought of him. For that, he was one of the first punk rock ambassadors that paved the way for many screenwriters in the years to follow. And it all started with taking his stance on hollywood labor concerns, coordinating meetings with other studio heads, and getting his peers to support his views on the current issues within Hollywood. Cranston was joined alongside Arlen Hird (Louis C.K.), Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlburg), and Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk) as other screenwriters and actors that were investigated for their Communist affiliation. After not complying with Congress and not backing down from his communist representation, Dalton Trumbo and his band out of outlaws, coined the Hollywood 10, were put behind bars by the House of Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. The committee was led by Hollywood luminary, John Wayne (David James Elliot) and the malicious Los Angeles Time columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). With the Un-American Activity Committee actively watching Dalton’s every move for the duration of the film and trying to destroy his career, they couldn’t keep him down even in the most vulnerable settings.
When you get hit so many times, you learn to fight back, and that’s exactly what Dalton Trumbo did. After the Hollywood 10 were released from prison, things were not the same in the movie industry, and thousands of lives were destroyed along the way. You see when you are blacklisted from Hollywood, do some prison time, and have your name wiped out from every distinguised movie studio, it’s extremely difficult to find a gig. Dalton and his fellow cohorts were coming across hard times and struggling to make ends meet, but this didn’t stop them from prying their way back into what they know best… cinema. In comes the infamous King Brothers and all of those famous B movies that we have seen late at night on AMC: Gorgo, Carnival Story, and Captain Sinbad. John Goodman plays Frank King, my favorite character from the film, who is a short fused, vulgar, bat swinging producer and madman that hires Trumbo to write a script for a gorilla suit that he and his brother, Hymie King (Stephen Root) had just purchased. This isn’t the hollywood paycheck that Trumbo is used to, but he knows that he wants to continue to write and make his voice heard in the industry. Under different aliases, Dalton was always ten steps ahead of his competition and crafted out script after script for King Brothers Productions. His tenacity would eventually pay off. During the third act, the Trumbo household turns into a family run business pushing out scripts left and right under Trumbo’s different aliases and hand delivering them to studios. Trumbo’s wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and daughter Niki (Elle Fanning) were quite convincing in their roles and stuck by Dalton’s side throughout his career. Niki was fed up with the household being run like a business and put a stop to Trumbo’s abstracted ways and non-stop work ethic.
In the end, we see Dalton whittle away and distant himself from his family and friends, most of the time in his office or bath tub crafting the next script. With his meticulous writing style, confined madness, and strive for perfection, his hard work deep within the shadows of his home, he writes a timeless masterpiece, Roman Holiday. Giving credit to his friend Ian McLellan Hunter, of course, the movie racks up an Academy Award, that Trumbo would later get in his life. Eventually, Trumbo is revealed as the writer behind the curtain to the public and the once powerful and doughty Un-American Activities Committee, begins to deteriorate before our eyes. One of the best scenes in the closing of the film is when you see Hedda Hopper’s face of disgust as she realizes that Trumbo rose from the ashes and was the key writer in the Kirk Douglas film Spartacus.
What I took away from this film is no matter what life/people try to take away from you, they will never get the best out of you. Dalton Trumbo was a very corageous man that saw the rise and fall of Hollywood and never once stopped him from his true passion, writing. This film had a dynamic cast that really brought the style and cinematic sense of this time period together. Jay Roach past films were more focused on the idiotic comedy genre, but he brought substance into the Trumbo film that built characters and their hardships during the darkest times of Hollywood. I also really enjoyed how Jay Roach used real Congressional footage of Trumbo and incorporated the actors from the film to give an authentic texture of that time period. Overall, the movie had an excellent script, the cinematogrophy, costume, set design, and acting were far superior and wouldn’t be surprised if Bryan Cranston and Jay Roach didn’t pick up an Oscar nod in the coming months.
After the screening, Jay Roach did a special Q+A to talk about filming of Trumbo
Out of 5 Nerdskulls:
Story: 4/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
I am giving Trumbo a 4.5 out of 5 Nerd Skulls.
Check out the trailer below:
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